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My husband has come home from work saying that he has to go to Las Vegas for work end of January (we are in Sydney, Australia) and that we should make it a family trip - woohoo!!!!!!! After a quick google I have realised that this is much bigger than I expected so thought I would see if I could get any ''inside'' advice from people in LA.
We plan to stay in LA for about 10 days and then drive to Las Vegas for about 4day.
My main question is where abouts should we stay in LA - we will be doing the typrical tourist thing (we have an 11 and 9 year old) like Disney / Universal / Hollywood. Is there a central area?? should I be looking at a couple of diff. areas and spending 5 days in each??? The boys are very keen for a basketball game - is there any other things you would recommend for us to do???? Is it easy enough to get around without a car????
Obviously we are very excited here and any help or advice you could send would be great!!
thanks
Sam and Ollie

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Lots to see and do around LA, check the tour books. If you have time rent a car and drive the coast road to San Francisco. It is a beautiful city, lots to do. Stop along the way at so many scenic places. Maybe fly back from Vegas to San Francisco, rent a car for the trip down to LA. Worth the effort,
Having grown up in Los Angeles, you really need a car to get around. Public transporation won't get you to all the different places you have asked about. Disneyland is 1.25 hours from Hollywood, etc. Santa Monica is a really nice place to stay. You can walk to the beach/pier. The promenade in Santa Monica has lots of restaurants and shops. Santa Monica isn't a touristy part of LA. I now live in SF and agree with Lee below. SF is a beautiful city and has lots of things to do. Driving the coast road as far as you can south to LA is very pretty too. Ten days seems like a long time to stay in LA....
Thanks everyone - having no idea about the area it was great to hear from you.
We are planning a total of 12 days now and I think we'll only spend as many days as we need to do the parks in Anaheim. I picked up a brochure today - much easier to comprehend than switching webpages all of the time!!!! Sounds like we're doing the Griswald thing and going for a drive........... Can't wait!!!!
Driving is the best way to see California. I'm in San Diego, in less than 2 hours I can make it to the Glamis San Dunes for riding quads in the desert or go up north to Big Bear Mountain for the snow. You have the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park along with Sea World. Lots of Naval history with the USS Midway Carrier that you can tour to staying at the famous Hotel Del Coronado. It's our winter time, while it's cold today but it usually is in the low 70's upper 60's this time of year.

Then a little less than 2 hours is Los Angeles. You have Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studio's. I don't know if you get the Ellen Show or Jay Leno Show in Australia. But if you do, you can write for tickets now and see one of there shows while in LA. The J Paul Getty Museum is pretty awesome but might bore the kids, my kids loved the La Brea Tar Pits where the mammoths and sabor tooth tigers where trapped in the tar and preserved. We went to the King Tut Exhibit a few years ago and the kids went through it in a hurry, so we went to the La Brea Tar Pits and spents a couple of hours there. You can get tickets to a Lakers game while in LA too. If you like to people watch, go to Venice Beach and there's an eyeful. Muscle Beach is up there too. There's quite a bit to see and recommending a hotel to stay would be hard as you will most likely be staying in different spots as you go along. But I usually stay at Marriott's hotels.

I hope you have a great Griswald California/Las Vegas vacation. Some day I hope to be asking you where to stay in Australia.
When you're down near Anaheim, make sure to go to the Santa Ana Discovery Center- it has lots of hands-on activities (like lying on a bed of nails) and your kids are the perfect age to go to it http://www.discoverycube.org/default.aspx . Also the Long Beach Aquarium is great (if you don't make it to Sea World) http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/ . There is also the Los Angeles Science Center http://www.californiasciencecenter.org/ . These are great activities on non-amusement park days. Another fun outing is to take the boat to Catalina Island catalina island . No matter where you go, I am sure that you'll have fun!
I have lived in the LA area for 30 years. You need a car and some really good maps even if your car has a GPS system. Even though San Francisco is indeed lovely and totally different from LA, with an 11 and a 9 year old I would not even consider driving to SanFrancisco, especially on 101 (1). You will all have a much better time hanging out in LA. You can plan on 3 days for Disneyland, California Adventure. Aquarium of the Pacific is in Long Beach on the water and worth the trip from Anaheim. That is a day trip as you can take in the Queen Mary or walk the rainbow walk over to Shoreline village. It is a much different area than Anaheim. There is a great dog park on the water in Huntington Beach (google Huntington Beach dog park) and the beaches in that area are nice, but chilly - no swimming this time of year in the Pacific without a wet suit. Do be sure you to see at least one beach in LA. There are bike and skate rental places along Huntington Beach and several other beaches and you can bike for miles along the beach on the bike "trail"(concrete). You can see the water all the time though.

If you want to do the star thing go to Hollywood and Highland ( entertainment/mall/kodak theater- it is also the name of the two streets where it is) good parking and near Graumans theater and the stars on the sidewalk - That is one day.

Your kids are exactly the right age for Universal Studios Tour which has many more thrill rides than it used to. It is right beside Universal City Walk which is a good nighttime area for eating and people watching. Universal closes around 6 pm this time of year. So that is a day trip also.

Discovery Center and the Science Center are each at least a half day. Depending on how your kids feel about these hands on places just chose one. There is a big IMAX by the Science Center and it is near the Coliseum, although not really much to see at the Coliseum.

In Anaheim, stay away from Medieval Times and the Pirate Show - expensive and not that great.

La Brea Tar pits takes about 2-3 hours, but it is very near Farmer's Market which is a wonderful place to eat. It is like the world's largest food park, only with really good food of every nationality. Farmer's Market connects to The Grove ( good big parking structure there - only a very small surface lot at the Market). The Grove is a small very upscale outdoor shopping venue, gorgeous and a quick walk to the Market, which has much less expensive and way more fun shopping - even for two boys.

Ticketexchange.com should have reasonable tickets for a Lakers game at the Staples Center which is in downtown LA. The food in Staples is exorbitant, but there is a Lawry's (good sandwiches etcand very LA) about 1-2 blocks away on the same side of the street. Staples is also about 5 blocks (same side of street) from the 5th Street Marketplace. Not worth a separate trip, but a good place to kill time if you end up early for the game.

If you want to go to the snow the closest place is Arrowhead - about two+ hours from Anaheim or and hour from san Gabriel valley. Check the weather report first to make sure there is snow and the road is open.

You might consider staying in Anaheim to see Disneyland and then moving to a more central location - Arcadia, Pasadena, Monrovia in the San Gabriel Valley which will put you a half hour from downtown, Farmer's Market, the Science Center and Universal and no more than an hour from everything else.

In Las Vegas you have to be creative to entertain your boys. Under 18's are not allowed in the casinos even with parents. It will be too cold to swim. Hoover Dam is actually a good day trip, even if they don't think so at first. Circus Circus is showing its age a little, but your sons are exactly the right age for the Midway there. Some of the hotels have one or two rides. Be prepare to walk the strip in Las Vegas. Parking is horrific and there is a shuttle that runs up and down the strip. Unless your husband needs one for business, you don't need a car in Las Vegas, the airport is close and the shuttles are good. I would not spend more time in Las Vegas than 3, maximum 4 days if you don't need to. It is in the middlle of the desert with little for children to do.

I have been to Sydney twice. What a great city. I enjoyed every minute of both stays. Los Angeles is much more geographically spread out and our mass transportation leaves a great deal to be desired. It is ethnically very diverse and you never have to worry that you are not dressed appropriately, you will see everything everywhere. Remember this time of year it may be 75 during the day but it will be cooling down by 4 o'clock and by 6 it will often be in the low 60s or high 50s. I hope you have as good a time in the LA area as we did in your Sydney
Thank you everyone, this is fantastic. We are actually catching up with family in Perth at the moment so I am only checking emails every week or so which is why I haven't responded earlier. We have decided to stay in Anaheim/LA for 6 nights then catch a train down to San Diego for three nights and then flying to Las Vegas for three nights. I think driving up to SF or to Vegas would be too much for the kids...... You have all mentioned things that we hadn't even heard of so we can't wait. Thanks again!!!
Sounds like you have gotten great advice. In Vegas you may want to take the kids to the different exhibits at the hotels, MGM has the lion exhibit, Mandalay Bay has the shark reef, Mirage has dolphins and white tigers and Cesaers Palace has a very cool under ground mall with some interactive shows. On the strip is M&M world ( just ok) game works and some great shows would be Cirque de Soleil or Blue man Group.
Have a great time!

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